The UAE has a recycling paper industry that could easily adapt to producing material for the construction, mining and chemical sectors and could easily start building roads with ash as the binding agent rather than cement, according to Juan José Cepriá from the ACCIONA Construction Tech Center.
Cepriá spoke with Logistics Middle East after being presented with the award for Best Innovative Project, based on his program of using pulp and paper industry waste to create secondary raw materials for road construction.
“PaperChain project aims at demonstrating the economic and technical feasibility of transforming non-hazardous and inorganic waste from the pulp and paper industry into valuable resources for the construction, mining and chemical sectors,” he says.
“This project is about innovation and its final target is to put some new products into the market, overcoming the barriers that hinders the use of unconventional resources,” Cepriá adds.
One of the objectives of the project is to analyse the environmental impact of replacing conventional raw material with waste considering the whole life cycle of the new products.
“It is clear that preventing waste from landfilling and using it to replace natural raw material, produces a double benefit in terms of environmental impacts, but we want to measure it considering all the factors,” explains Cepriá.
“For example, first results from the Spanish case study show that replacing cement with waste paper ash reduces the carbon footprint of the soil cement layer typically placed below the asphalt pavement by around 95%.”
The UAE has a recycling paper industry that could directly replicate this model, he says. Wastepaper ash is generated in waste to energy plants where sludge from the wastewater treatment plants, and other rejects from the paper recycling process, are burnt for energy recovery.
“The resulting ash has binding properties and can partially or totally replace cement in road construction projects,” says Cepriá. “The ash can be directly blended with the soil to get improved mechanical properties or could be an addition for the local cement industry to produce tailored hydraulic road binders.”
“The main drawback is the time-consuming legal process required for a waste to become a resource. Once the economic, technical and environmental feasibility of using these waste streams have been proved, the legal process starts. At this point, the competitiveness of traditional materials are greater so that, a long-term view and commitment with sustainability is needed for not giving up,” he adds.